First Telephonic Interview with Candidates

What are the main elements that a head of product tries to identify during the first phone interview with a candidate?


On a first phone screen with a candidate, I’m mostly gauging how well someone communicates. I’ve already seen their resume and may ask them to tell me a few stories based on past experience. If someone does well, I like to follow-up the phone screen with some sort of exercise+presentation that tests their ‘hard’ PM skills. After that I’ll start pulling in a more cross-functional panel to talk with them.


My #1 is self awareness + growth mindset. I know I can be a good manager for someone who seeks out direct feedback and grows from it. Without these traits, I can’t be an effective manager for them.
In the first phone screen, I always ask: “What’s a piece of feedback that was difficult to hear but helped you grow?”
It’s an unconventional question to ask in the first interview, so I tend to preface it with: “Hey, one thing to know about me as a manager is I care deeply about feedback, both giving and receiving it. That’s why this question is important…”

  1. Who are they? - 5 minutes self-intro
  2. What is their journey to product management? - what type of PM are they?
  3. Are they able to articulate what is great product management vs project management?
  4. What is their track record so far? What are they the most proud of?
  5. Are they open about their past failures and what would they do differently?
  6. If this is manager role, what is their management style? Do they have good strategic thinking? How do they handle conflict? How do they scale the team?
  7. What are they looking for from a career point of view?
  8. What questions do they have?

I try to cover most of it within the first phone screening and then deep dive on each point during the “on site” interview if they make it to the next step.

  1. Why they’re in Product Management - test for what motivates and drives them
  2. Why they’re looking to make a change, what they want next and why they’re left past companies
  3. Interest and knowledge of the company & role - candidates who show they’ve put some effort into understanding the company and space stand out. It’s not hard to do but I’ve interviewed dozens of people who didn’t even visit our website.
  4. What carer achievement they’re most proud of and why
  5. Their questions for me

Within all of that I listen for clear and concise communication and structured thought processes.This usually gives me a good set of inputs to decide if both parties should commit the time to a full interview process.


This varies depending on the role you’re hiring for. Try to be clear on what skills you need for the role and what makes this role distinct. This will help you pitch the role to candidates with the right background.

Based on that, try to make a top 3 traits for your role and screen for those.My last role had a top three of

  • Enjoys complex product areas
  • Excellent stakeholder management

Experience tying platform projects to business metrics

I like a lot of what others have pointed out, those for me often come a little later in the interview process


I would focus on how well they communicate, have they done any research about the company, are they excited to join us, what are the questions they ask me.

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Thank you everyone for taking the time and pain for posting your views and being so helpful. Your advices and comment were absolutely amazing. A BIG THANK YOU to all of you.

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